Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and FAODsnewborns

Sudden infant death syndrome baby

​​​Sudden infant death syndrome is every new parent’s biggest fear, but luckily for many, this nightmare is nothing more than a distant worry that never requires serious consideration. For others that are not so lucky, sudden infant death syndrome is a scary reality that can have many causes.


At the International Network for Fatty Acid Oxidation Research and Management (INFORM), we want to educate you on the harsh reality of sudden infant death syndrome from fatty acid oxidation disorders.


What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is when a baby that is typically a year or younger dies in an inexplicable way. Often the baby appears to be normal and healthy but may die in their sleep. Because most babies die in their sleep, this problem is also nicknamed crib death. There are a variety of factors and causes of sudden infant death syndrome. In the United States alone, more than 2,000 babies die of SIDS every year.1


SIDS and Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders

While the cause of SIDS is not entirely known, there are many factors that can put a baby at higher risk including premature birth, abnormalities with brain stem function, poor sleeping environment, and fatty acid oxidation disorders. Fatty acid oxidation disorders or FAODs are defects in the way the body metabolizes fat. With a healthy and strict diet, some people can live a relatively normal life with a fatty acid oxidation disorder while others are not as fortunate.


While sudden infant death syndrome can occur for many reasons, FAODs have been linked as one of the more likely and frequent causes of this tragedy. One study found that about 5% of all sudden infant death syndrome cases are caused by one the various FAODS.2 Because FAODs are hereditary, another study found evidence of one of these disorders in 15% of the sibling of a child who died from SIDS in their research population.3 It is clear that sudden infant death syndrome and FAODs do have a connection.


Regardless of whether a disorder of fatty acid oxidation is to blame, research also suggests that if you have one child who died of SIDS, your other children are at a higher risk of having this happen to them as well compared to a family with no genetic history of SIDS.


Parents with children who have an FAOD should be aware of this connection but should also understand that many people with these problems are able to lead mostly normal lives.  Although some of these disorders may go undetected initially, newborn screening for FAODs can often recognize these problems at birth for many children. This early detection can lead to preventative measures like diet changes and a regular eating schedule to keep SIDS from happening in some cases.


At INFORM Network, we know that topics like sudden infant death syndrome and FAODs can be confusing and hard to understand, so we want to be a source of reliable information on these subjects. Check back for the latest fatty acid oxidation disorder research and information.



  1. NPR – Rethinking SIDS: Many Deaths No Longer A Mystery
  2. NCBI – Retrospective biochemical screening of fatty acid oxidation disorders in postmortem livers of 418 cases of sudden death in the first year of life.
  3. NCBI – Sudden infant death syndrome and inherited disorders of fatty acid beta-oxidation.